Thought Leadership: The Smart Way to Grow Your Practice

Defining and effectively promoting your personal brand is essential to developing a vital practice, and with a thoughtful approach, it can be the vehicle for perpetual growth.

Wendy Merrill

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Marketing legal services is difficult. For many attorneys, business development is seen as a necessary evil, critical to success but fraught with challenges. Developing client relationships and promoting one’s practice are not skills taught in law school, and often lawyers must learn how to originate business by enduring bumps, bruises, random successes, and an assigned, but not specifically allocated, marketing budget.

With the advent of social media came a new and highly effective method of articulating and promoting one’s professional abilities and individual value proposition: Thought Leadership.

Positioning oneself as a thought leader involves creating a quantifiable brand centered around one’s knowledge, experience, interests, and values. This requires a consistent focus on providing value. Defining and effectively promoting your personal brand is essential to developing a vital practice, and with a thoughtful approach, it can be the vehicle for perpetual growth.

What is your personal brand?

Simply put, your brand is the mark you leave on others. It’s what compels someone to refer you, hire you, or befriend you. It’s the summation of what you do, why you do it, and how it makes others feel. Your brand is how you are described by others, which is why it is critical to be consistent and thoughtful about conveying your brand through your actions. Defining one’s brand is challenging for many; it’s hard to see ourselves as others see us. To make it a bit easier, here are three steps to help you successfully articulate your brand:

  1. Ask those you admire to share how they would describe you in your absence or when introducing you.
  2. Think about 2-3 people you admire and jot down their personality characteristics. Why are they appealing to you?
  3. Write down a description of yourself, incorporating input from steps 1 and 2, and use this as a guide for every client interaction, phone call, website bio, social media post, and exchange with colleagues.
  4. Enlist support from your firm’s marketing professional to promote your brand within and outside of your firm.

Branding Yourself as a Thought Leader

As an attorney, you essentially sell your brain for a living. As such, branding yourself as a thought leader is the lowest hanging marketing fruit – as long as you harvest it. Thought leadership is not just about creating a name for yourself as a great attorney with an expansive understanding of a particular practice area; it also includes helping people see you as someone who is committed to professional development, leadership, wellness, firm management, the future state of the law, and more. When promoting yourself, you want people to identify with your point of view and shared values.

Your DRI membership offers you a robust platform for promoting your thought leadership and personal brand through article publications, speaking engagements at our seminars and on our webinars, sponsorship program participation, and social media engagement.

Social Media

Did you know that by “liking,” “sharing,” or “commenting” on a DRI LinkedIn post about an upcoming program, you demonstrate your thought leadership? Depending on what you write in the body of the post, you can position yourself as knowledgeable in a particular practice area or as a leader in the civil defense space. In promoting DRI, you are promoting yourself.

To get more traction from your posts, be sure to use hashtags such as: #law, #lawyers, #lawfirms, #attorneys, #lawfirm, and of course, #DRICommunity. It is also helpful to “tag” other DRI members, non-member attorneys, clients, and influencers by typing “@” and then their name.


Writing an article for one of DRI’s publications is an invaluable opportunity to get your name in front of thousands of people. Depending on how you would like to be seen by your colleagues, you can pen a piece on developments in your practice area, the importance of diversity in law firms, best practices for attorney wellness, or career advice. The DRI Communications staff is here to help you to maximize your thought leadership reach and take the guesswork out of authorship.

Consider writing about a timely topic in the news and how it is relevant to your practice or your personal brand. Our Communications staff are always looking for content that is not only of interest to our members but to the legal community at large. If you have an idea or are looking for suggestions on compelling topics, please send an email to


DRI has a rich history of producing outstanding programs with terrific speakers. If you volunteer to present at one of our seminars or webinars, you not only reach attendees, but your appearance is shared in marketing materials that are promoted in our publications, in emails, and on various social media platforms. In addition, many of our speakers record videos of themselves highlighting their presentation, which DRI then shares on social media. These posts always attract the most engagement, and the speakers enjoy putting themselves out there.

When speaking on behalf of a DRI program, “spice” up your presentation with interesting and even humorous images. Your PowerPoint should complement your presentation, not constitute it. The more engaging a speaker you are, the better advertisement you provide to an audience of potential referral sources and clients.


DRI’s reimagined sponsorship program provides unique opportunities to promote you and your firm’s brand. Through the careful alignment of advertising, networking, and recognition at events, being a DRI sponsor highlights your commitment to a particular practice area and to the civil defense bar.

When sponsoring a program, be sure to post on social media about your commitment to the program and to DRI. It’s a great opportunity to gain extra visibility for your brand as a complement to the promotional support provided by DRI.

Wendy MerrillWendy Merrill is DRI’s Executive VP of Growth Strategy & Branding, where she heads up the organization’s marketing, publications and online strategy.

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